Despite more than two weeks with only a detour route available for traffic coming to the west coast of Vancouver Island, the Alberni Valley Salvation Army is doing just fine providing meals to those in need.
The local Salvation Army branch operates the Bread of Life soup kitchen and provides food hampers through their food bank.
Although supplies are well-stocked now, Lisa George, director of community resources with the Salvation Army, said there was a degree of worry during the first few days of the Highway 4 closure.
Highway 4 has been shut down between Koen Road and Cathedral Grove since June 6 due to the Cameron Bluffs wildfire. According to the province, the stretch of highway is on track to reopen to single-lane alternating traffic by the June 24 weekend.
“Salvation Army is the food bank as well as we feed at the Bread of Life, over 700 meals a day go out of there. With nothing coming in for the first few days… we really had to improvise and think ahead,” George said. “We weren’t getting the donations from the grocery stores either because people were mass buying at the beginning.”
George said in the first couple of days before the convoys were scheduled on the detour route into Port Alberni, the Salvation Army was running low on supplies, but since then they’re pretty much back to normal.
“Our supplies are coming back in. Sysco’s been able to make it over with a lot of our large amount stuff for Bread of Life,” George said. “It’s starting to pick back up. We really have to thank everybody in the community that was willing to give what they had as well. We had a local farmer donate 15 dozen eggs one day.”
George said local supplier Circle Diary have been helpful with recommending where to find items that have run out and Loaves & Fishes Food Bank, a BC food bank supplier, sent a truck to Port Alberni on the first day of the convoy with a large delivery on non-perishable items.
“We worked together really strongly to figure out what we were going to do to keep going,” George said. “It was a little scary at the beginning but it’s just getting better and better.”
George added that thanks to public donations, the Salvation Army could still provide individuals with food hampers and no one went without.
With the influx of donations and supplies from Loaves & Fishes, George was even able to travel to the west coast to deliver extra food items to the Food Bank on the Edge that services the communities of Ucluelet, Tofino, Area C, Hitacu, Opitsaht, Esowista, Ahousaht, Hesquiaht and Toquaht.
“They brought us some supplies last Friday which was great because they got a bunch and needed space so that was much appreciated,” said Cris Martin, president of Food Bank on the Edge.
Martin said the food bank, which provides clients with monthly food hampers, hasn’t had any major supply shortages since the detour has opened.
“We really didn’t lose anything in terms of supplies or our ability to get supplies,” Martin said. “We have a lot of food here.”